Hemp is one of the most versatile plants on the planet. It is an amazing gift of nature, can produce high-quality clothing, textiles, paper, food and while we’re at it – you can even build a house with it! As a bonus, it is also naturally resistant to pests, so it doesn’t require harmful pesticides even when grown on a commercial scale.
As a food, hemp seeds have an abundance of health benefits. In my Conscious Kitchen, it features almost daily in my cuisine. This article explores why we should be embracing this incredible super-food.
Hemp versus marijuana
If you’ve been on the conscious eating path for any length of time, then you may already know that hemp seeds sold for kitchen use contain a completely insignificant amount of THC (delta 9 tetrahydrocannabinol, the primary psychoactive ingredient in marijuana that gets people ‘high’)… just in case you wondered.
Culinary hemp (as available in health food stores) and marijuana are essentially completely different varieties of the same plant species.
So if you are concerned, then rest assured, there will be no getting ‘high’ on culinary approved hemp seed!
Why is hemp so good for us?
Hemp is one of the most amazing plants to support human health that exists on our planet. It’s brimming with nutrients, so much so, that I make a point of incorporating it regularly into my already super healthy plant-based diet. Here are some of the health benefits…
Protein Power Super Star
Hemp is one of the most complete proteins in the plant food kingdom, containing ALL 21 known amino acids, including the 9 that humans are unable to produce themselves. Amino acids are the building blocks of protein. Protein is essential for basic bodily functions; it helps to build new cells whilst looking after the tissues within your body (which lets face it, is pretty essential). Protein is responsible for making neurotransmitters, the essential internal messaging service that sends the signals around your body to make it function. Hemp comes up top for protein power and is well recognised as a super-food by those seeking a healthy protein source.
Perfect balance of omega essential fats
‘Essential’ means that the body can’t produce these fats itself, so it requires dietary input. Hemp contains nature’s perfect ratio (3:1) of omega 3 to omega 6 essential fatty acids. This is a unique accomplishment in the plant world. These compounds have been shown to have a particularly beneficial effect on our health. Hemp seeds are one of the few plant-based sources of omega 3 (other sources include walnuts, flax seeds, chia seeds).
GLA (gamma linolenic acid)
Hemp is an excellent source of GLA. This is a really special omega 6 fatty acids, that is also found in borage, evening primrose and black currant seeds. It has been shown to help people with skin disorders, PMS, menopause, cancer, heart disease, arthritis and has good anti-inflammatory benefits.
Hempseed oil and skin disorders
Studies have shown that hemp seed oil can help with skin disorders. I found one study concluding that improvement in cholesterol levels and improved symptoms of atopic dermatitis were directly related to the dietary consumption of hempseed oil. It was suggested that this may be because of the abundance of PUFAs (polyunsaturated fatty acids) in hempseed oil.
High fibre food (yes we really do spell fibre like that here!)
Like most plant foods, hemp seeds are rich in soluble and un-soluble fibre. Fibre naturally keeps the colon clear, gives you a satiated feeling, whilst helping to reduce sugar cravings.
High in antioxidants
Hemp seeds are high in the antioxidant vitamin E, a very helpful antioxidant. It has also been found to contain tocopherol, which benefits both Alzheimer’s and atherosclerosis. Phytol is another powerful antioxidant from hemp seed, which has is known to have both antioxidant and anticancer properties.
Different ways to eat hemp seeds
Hemp seed oil
Hemp seed oil is extracted by pressing hemp seeds. It’s best to choose a cold pressed, unrefined oil to ensure that it retains its optimal goodness. The best hemp seed oil will have a green tint along with a fresh, nutty flavour. It is known to be unstable at high temperatures and not advisable to use for frying or baking. It works well by drizzling over potatoes or veggies after cooking and is always my first choice for salad dressings.
Here is a deliciously easy hemp oil & parsley salad dressing that I am totally in love with, so much so that I even created a short video to show you how simple it really is:
Whole & shelled (hulled) hemp seeds
I remember the first time I ever tried hemp seeds about 15 years ago. They hadn’t yet taken the world by storm and generally came with the shells still on. I learned rapidly from experience that you definitely want to buy them hulled/shelled (also referred to as hemp seed hearts). They have a light, nutty flavour and blend easily into smoothies or act as a great sprinkle for salad and other cereals. Grind them or use them whole.
Delicious recipes using shelled hemp seeds
Hemp protein powder
This is an excellent way to add hemp to a smoothie or other food if you specifically want to focus on the protein and high fibre element of these amazing seeds.
The powder is what’s left over after the oil has been extracted and is much easier to digest than many other protein sources. One of my favourite ways to use hemp protein powder is to pop it in a smoothie. Check out my delicious recipes…
Delicious recipes using ‘Hemp Protein Powder’
Where to find hemp seeds
You can find hemp seeds, hemp protein and hemp oil at any good health food store or online.
Here are a few helpful suggestions to get you started…
- Hemp seeds online USA: Manitoba Harvest Hemp Hearts Raw Shelled Hemp Seeds
- Hemp protein powder online USA: Navitas Naturals Organic Raw Hemp Protein Powder
- Hemp seeds online UK: Sevenhills Organics Raw Shelled Hemp Seeds
- Hemp protein powder UK: Sevenhills Organics Raw Hemp Protein Powder